Ekman-Inertial Instability

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Nicolas Grisouard , Varvara E. Zemskova


We report on an instability, arising in sub-surface, laterally-sheared flows in rotation. When the lateral shear of a horizontal flow in geostrophic balance is of opposite sign as the Coriolis parameter, and exceeds it in magnitude, embedded perturbations are subjected to inertial instability, albeit modified by viscosity. When the perturbation arises from the surface of the fluid, the initial response is akin to a Stokes problem, with an initial flow aligned with the initial perturbation. Perturbation then grows quasi-inertially, rotation deflecting the velocity vector, which adopts a well-defined angle with the mean flow. While the perturbation initially grows super-inertially, the growth rate then becomes sub-inertial, eventually tending back to the inertial value. The same process repeats downward as time progresses. Ekman-inertial transport aligns with the asymptotic orientation of the flow, and grows exactly inertially with time, once the initial instants have passed. Because of the strongly super-inertial initial growth rate, this instability might compete favorably against other instabilities arising in ocean fronts.




Oceanography, Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics



Published: 2020-07-05 19:51

Last Updated: 2021-04-21 18:26

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